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#BlogElul – Elul 4

Elul 4 – Choose

This year, I’m making choices. For years I’ve said, “I don’t have enough time for that” and “I don’t have enough time for this.” I read something this month however that said, “I don’t have enough time” is synonymous with “This is not a priority for me.” That is a very different way of looking at the universe.

“I don’t have enough time to contact my friends” sounds believable, and almost valid as an excuse. “These people are not a priority for me” – that’s different. “I don’t have enough time to go hiking or canoeing or camping or enjoy any physical activity at all” – that’s just a bit sad. Poor thing. She doesn’t have enough time. If only time had been nicer to her. “Hiking, canoeing and camping aren’t priorities for me” however, sounds horrifying. Of course they’re priorities! What? What kind of life am I building here?

Every day, I have the same 24 hours. What will I fill it with? How much time am I losing to activities I didn’t choose, activities I “fell into” because of lack of time? It’s a bit scary to think that every little thing I do – from taking a drink of water to typing this very line is a choice of how I spend my time – a choice of what my priority is. And Judaism tells me I should think hard and deliberately about that choice. Judaism is big on acting with intention. There’s a whole word Kavana for acting and praying and doing whatever you do with intention.  We are supposed to put all of ourselves into what we do, not simply skim the surface.

Sometimes, I need a rest! A break! And here too I have choices. I can pick breaks that meet my priorities or breaks that don’t, that waste some of those 24 hours. It’s easy to go on default – heck, not going with the flow, not going on default – that takes brain power and focus. (For most of us, walking along to the musac in shopping malls is automatic, it’s breaking that pattern that’s the challenge – for me, well, let’s just say that thing doesn’t work for me when it comes to music. When it comes to activities, however…) I get tired of that too and so I fall into patterns in which I’m doing things that are easy rather than things that are important or fun.

So, this year, I want to push slowly but firmly to change those patterns. I want to create new patterns in which, when I look at what I’m doing at any given time, I can say “this is a priority; this is exactly how I want to be spending my time.” That way, when I say “I don’t have time for this” I’ll be able to add “because it’s not a priority” without flinching. That way, I know I’ve made the choice and not whatever random dude picked the musac playing at that shopping mall.

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Elul 15

#BlogElul – Change

Ah, change. I don’t hate change any more. I used to. I kept trying for consistency, to hold on to something. I kept wanting to find a place that would be safe. I looked for ways to stay with the tried and true, the known and familiar. God, of course, thought this was hilarious.

“You want stability,” God said, “I think I’ll have you move every 5 years, or even more often! You’ll need to meet entirely new people, build entirely new friends, change everything and create a place for yourself over and over again . Maybe, I’ll make you a substitute teacher so you meet new students every day. Maybe, a contract teacher where your contract is secure for exactly 2 months at a time (on good days).”

When God says, “be OK with change because you have to,” there’s no point hating change. It’s not so much that I see change as a welcome friend, more like on old travelling buddy – ah, change, here you are again, whether I want you or not. I might as well get along with you, because you keep popping up. Over time, I’ve even found some good things about change.

It gives me perspective. I can see the situation I was in more clearly with a bit of distance, and maybe I can grow a bit from it. It gives me opportunity – meeting new people stinks, but making new friends can lead to good friendships and togetherness. It gives me strength. Well, if I can make it through that, I can make it through anything.

It’s hard to find a good Jewish prayer for change, you know. Asking for change isn’t a big Jewish thing. Asking for repentance and redirection, yes. But repentance and redirection to the correct path, the tried and true one! Change? Making something different if it didn’t have to be? AAAAAAAAAA! Why are you switching to the red coat anyways? What was wrong with the blue coat? It still worked! There were years of good service in that thing! We are the old, old religion with laugh wrinkles next to our eyes and wise aphorisms just pouring out. We prefer our writing on old yellowed parchment, and we think tradition keeps us going.

So the best I can do is quote the Torah and appreciate the brevity, simplicity, and encompassing nature of Hebrew. To everything there is a time – Lakol, Zman.

LaKol – to everything. The inclusive nature of it all robs change of the power to scare. A new place becomes just a place, a part of everything. Sure it has differences, but in the context of ‘everything’, those differences are pretty small, compared to the many similarities. It’s on Earth, isn’t it? It’s not somewhere actually, say, different. Like all other places, it has place features – houses, people, love, silliness, work… It turns change into mild variation, a different flavour of ice cream rather than an earth-shattering new way to be.

Zman – time. Again, you have to love it when a saying is just two words that encompass the infinite, one in space and one in time. Today, this minute, I have time. And this change is what is supposed to be happening now in this time. Change becomes cycles, the unfolding of a path I can walk. If there is no pattern, change is a wild plunge into chaos. But what happens when I see the pattern, or at least know the pattern exists and God sees it? Change is just the next piece in a pattern. That’s not terrifying, or disturbing – I know what’s coming up and can plan for it and it’s way better.

As I learn more about change, it’s like change gets a grooming. The wild, tattered clothes get replaced with a nice dress and the medusa-like hair gets brushed. Change becomes something I can cope with and maybe even enjoy.